It can be difficult for marketers to know where to start in times of crisis. People have gone into defence mode in just a few weeks, focusing on themselves, their families, their employees, their customers, and their communities. This is reflected on social media, with requests for residents to obey government safety rules. People have crossed partisan boundaries to form connections inside their communities and unify against an unseen menace.
We’re seeing big behavioural shifts as a result of social isolation, which has kept many individuals at home. For reliable information, consumers have returned to broadcast and cable television, as well as other premium media sources. They’re also looking for more escape and amusement, which they’re getting through downloading gaming applications, spending more time on social media, and watching more movies and scripted television. And, in a mainly pre-5G world, we’re pushing the bandwidth of our houses with remote working arrangements, live-streamed gym classes, college lectures, and social events.
Meanwhile, the desire for tangible items is putting strain on new channels, with e-commerce demand reaching unprecedented heights. Essentials are available at grocery and convenience stores for those who go out, although availability is irregular. More customers are opting for frictionless payment systems, such as utilising mobile phones to pay at check-out without touching a surface or using a pen, due to health and safety concerns.
Some of these changes in behaviour may be transient, but others may be permanent. As people are driven to try new things by circumstance as they progress beyond their existing method of survival, the momentum driving digital-experience adoption is unlikely to reverse. What measures can brands take to service and increase their client base, minimise risk, and care for their people while so much changes so quickly during this challenging time?
1. Demonstrate empathy and openness.
Right now, people are feeling vulnerable. Empathy is extremely important. Many banks, for example, have decided to waive overdraft fees in recognition of their clients’ misfortune. SAP has made its Qualtrics Remote Work Pulse technology available for free to businesses who are fast adopting new methods of working. Such examples demonstrate humility in the face of a force that is greater than us all.
The subtleties of brand voice are more important than ever before. Brands that take advantage of this period for commercial gain will not fare well. Instead, follow Guinness’ lead in the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day, when the business moved its attention away from celebrations and pub gatherings and instead pushed into a message of longevity and wellbeing. We don’t have all the solutions right now, and we need to admit that. Even in uncertain times, if you make promises, you must be able to follow through on them.
2. Make use of media in a more flexible manner.
Marketers will need to develop more rapid-response operating models both internally and with agencies to quickly pivot creative messages as conditions change. As the crisis progresses, having access to remote production and creative ability will become increasingly vital. For example, Nike quickly adopted a new slogan: “Play inside, play for the world.” Miss Chiquita was also removed from Chiquita Brands’ emblem in order to foster social separation and demonstrate a commitment to public safety. “I’ve already arrived at my destination. Please follow suit and take precautions,” the Instagram message added.
Aside from creativity, marketers should consider changing their media mix as the mix of actual media channels used by consumers changes rapidly. Marketers may wish to increase their use of ad-supported premium video streaming and mobile gaming, for example, as demand for digital entertainment rises. Similarly, as consumers scramble to keep informed, brands should not be afraid of being near them, given the level of engagement and relevancy. To avoid creative being over-exposed, which can harm brand equity, news may just be an atmosphere that necessitates more careful supervision of how frequently ads run.
3. Associate your brand with positive things.
People will remember brands for their acts of kindness during a crisis, especially if they are done with sincerity and compassion. Donating to food banks, supplying free products to medical staff, or continuing to pay employees while the company is closed are all examples of this. Adobe, for example, made Creative Cloud available to K-12 institutions right away, knowing that this was an opportunity to give rather than just make a profit. Consumers will undoubtedly recall how Ford, GE, and 3M collaborated to repurpose production capacity and rehire workers to create coronavirus respirators and ventilators. Many alcoholic beverage corporations, from Diageo to AB InBev, have repurposed their alcohol-manufacturing capacity to create hand sanitizer, relieving supply shortages with their “It’s in our hands to make a difference” statement.
Feel-good material that reduces anxiety and promotes positive message will help to improve the brand’s image. Companies must, however, demonstrate that their contributions are meaningful and not merely for financial gain. Authenticity and sincere intent are recognised by customers.
4. Keep track of patterns and create scenarios
Marketers will acquire greater real-time insights by studying human behavioural trends on a regular basis. Marketers will want to monitor sentiment and consumption trends on a regular basis in order to better adapt messaging. They will also want to keep a close eye on the conversation across social media marketing platforms, community sites, and e-commerce product pages to look for opportunities and spot impending crises. Companies should consider immediately creating dashboards with this data to help them make the best decisions possible.
Marketers should also explore developing stronger relationships with their C-suite counterparts in order to deliver insights to executives who will increasingly be involved in marketing decisions. Depending on how long the crisis lasts, the marketing team should collaborate closely with finance and operations to estimate various scenarios and results.
5. Continue to provide by adapting to new ways of functioning.
The speed with which many organisations were able to switch to remote working arrangements is encouraging. Collaboration solutions can enable chat, file sharing, meeting, and phone features in a fluid manner, allowing teams to stay connected and productive. Virtual happy hours are already becoming the new standard for boosting workplace morale. Partners are “pitching” from afar, knowing that a face-to-face sales contact is unlikely for several weeks. Leaders must do everything possible to adapt each aspect of the operating model to this new normal, from marketing to sales to service. Our current suffering will lead to new sources of innovation and even margin enhancement.
How can we plan for the future and beyond?
The Covid-19 pandemic is currently at the acknowledge-and-adapt phase. However, we must also prepare for life beyond the crisis. Brand marketing leaders must work externally to make their brands and customer experiences as entire as possible as we navigate what we know, while working inside to do three things:
- Recognize the consequences of a business interruption and continue to prioritise the unexpected.
- Embrace digital ways of working and communicating with customers, recognising that the results will be long-lasting.
- Think realistically from the outside-in to mitigate hazards to the consumer experience.
Without a doubt, the digital transformation agenda is being forced to accelerate as we see how quickly customers and workers have adopted digitally enabled journeys and experiences.
During these difficult and unusual conditions, all brands must think, operate, and lead in new ways, and we will all have to learn together with both confidence and humility.
Ahmad Sultan is a technical Content Writer for digital marketing company MightyWarner. His passion lies in web technologies, technical writing, SEO copywriting, blog posting, link building and web analytics.